Every business owner is deluged with information about how important it is to use digital media, and especially social media, in order for their business to succeed and grow.
Obviously, this blog is no exception. And they are all correct.
However, one of the most important elements to having a successful social media presence seems to be missing from many local businesses or small business-to-business companies social media feeds.
The content. Yes, their is content. But merely posting tips, or copy-and-paste industry memes is not enough. If you want people to follow you - if you want your social media channels to have value, you need to have the right content.
And the 'right content' is entirely dependent on your company and what makes you different. There is no 'one size fits all solution'. If you think about it, is anyone interested in generic content based on the general category of your business? Nope.
Yet that seems to be the solution that is often sold to many small businesses. It gives the appearance of a social media 'strategy', but it's typically boring, generic and (most importantly) absolutely meaningless for growing your business.
To understand what the 'right content' may be, below are some of the most common reasons for why a person would follow a company or brand Facebook page:
For many, the opportunity to get a discount or a notification about a special event is obviously at the top of the list. Why? Because this content provides real value for them. In the consumer's mind it's a worthwhile exchange; they are willing to follow your page with the expectation that they will get something of value.
Most business owners understand this motivation, so I won't delve into it, other than to say you obviously want to ensure that you are communicating any traditional sales, coupons, discounts to persons on social media.
The exchange of value for a discount, a sale, represents and exchange based purely on economic value. But that is NOT the only value you can provide to a potential social media follower.
Looking at other highly-ranked motivations and you see that there is more than just economics at play. When people want to "Stay informed about the company", or follow for "Fun or Entertainment", or to "Learn more about the Company", and "Show my Support for the Company" they are not looking for a coupon, but they are looking for something.
From my experience, these are extremely important. Coincidentally, they are also difficult.
A common solution for many companies is to share articles from trade publications and websites. And this typically results in extremely low engagement from your followers.
Why is that? Because it's missing out on what people really want when they are on Facebook and Social Media. They want to see something interesting, relevant, educational or entertaining.
Think about the average person with some 'down time' scrolling their news feed. Do they really want to click on a link to read a post about the particulate vacuum nature of the parallel widget absorption module? Probably not. They are looking to be engaged.
And this is particularly challenging for local advertisers and brands. Most local businesses may have the history, resources, or products that would generate 'natural' followers. Movie studios, gaming companies, automotive brands, technology brands have a built in 'fan base' and provide some level of entertainment value to many of their current or potential customers - so they get followers just by being who they are.
Big, national brands have a relationship or investment in building a unique connection with customers, so companies like KFC, Ford, Clinique and others have some personal relevance, and the investment in content, to make following their page interesting.
And the importance of this content is just as critical for any small, local business as it is for national brands. If 64% of your Facebook followers would always or usually consider purchasing from your brand, isn't the investment worth it?
So what can the local business - without the momentum or financial advantages of the above mentioned examples - do to compete for attention with their local customer or potential customer base?
Ask yourself this question: Is this post interesting to my average customer? Not necessarily about your products or services (those are fine and have their place), but
Does it tell an interesting story?
Does it make someone smile?
Will it help them to think about your business as interesting people they would work with or purchase from?
The bottom line to consider: Would YOU follow your Facebook page? Do the posts you create and promote seem likely to get read (and even shared or commented on?), or are you merely posting content because...it seems like what you are supposed to do.
If your post is going to appear in their news feed, you should want to use that opportunity to connect with that person. There are two important ways to improve your ability to connect, and that is through true stories (experiences or anecdotes from employees or owners) and laughter. In each case you are making something of an emotional connection with the user.
Yes, you will want to continue to share offers, discounts, product news and the related. But these will not create that emotional bond with the reader that is so important for building a brand.
And for the local advertiser, social media (in particular Facebook) should be a cost-effective tool to help you develop a brand that may have been too difficult through other media. It takes an investment, as well as brutal honesty about the value of content for the casual interested.
But if successful, the investment will yield more followers, organic shares, and continued growth and success.